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Singapore Government

Further Progress in Strengthening Social Safety Nets

Further Progress in Strengthening Social Safety Nets

To better support those in need, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be enhancing the SupportGoWhere portal, pressing on with the nation-wide scale-up of ComLink, and strengthening support for ComCare families with school-going children.

2          These initiatives are part of our continuous efforts to strengthen our social safety nets, and provide Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated (3C) support for those in need. Over the past few years, we have been building up our officers’ capabilities, strengthening community and government partnerships, and streamlining work processes through data and technology[1]. Taken together, we aim to partner those in need to regain stability, attain self-reliance, and eventually achieve social mobility.

Enhanced SupportGoWhere (SGW) Portal

3          SupportGoWhere (SGW) was first developed as a one-stop portal in 2020 for citizens to find out more about COVID-19 support schemes across government agencies, and to apply for COVID-19 financial support schemes such as the COVID-19 Recovery Grant (CRG). The portal was well received by the public and was visited by over 40,000 unique visitors each month. We then further enhanced the SupportGoWhere (SGW) portal to go beyond COVID-19 support schemes by consolidating information on various social assistance schemes offered by different agencies. Individuals and families requiring assistance can now conveniently find information on more than 60 help schemes from 16 different agencies, and check their eligibility for these schemes on a single portal. They no longer needed to visit multiple agencies in person or navigate different Government websites to search for information on these various help schemes.

4          By Q2 2022, ComCare applicants can also apply for ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) via the enhanced SGW portal. The portal will tap on MyInfo to auto-populate relevant personal information, which reduces manual data entry by applicants. Applicants will receive a follow-up phone or video call from our Social Service Offices (SSOs) to better understand their needs and assess the family’s situation. They can also submit relevant supporting documents directly through the portal, instead of hard copy documents at the SSOs. Overall, this will save applicants travelling time and increase convenience. Applicants who prefer to apply for ComCare SMTA in person can still visit the SSOs or ServiceSG centres[2], where they can be assisted by service ambassadors.

5          We will progressively onboard more schemes onto the SGW portal over the next few years, and enable those in need to apply for schemes through the portal directly.

Progress on nation-wide scale-up of ComLink

6          In April 2021, MSF announced the progressive scaling up of ComLink nation-wide to 21 towns over the next few years, to support around 14,000 families with children living in rental housing. ComLink provides 3C support to these families, to uplift their circumstances and empower them to build up resources for a brighter future. The goal is for these families to achieve Stability, Self-reliance and Social mobility (3 ‘S’), including home ownership where possible. ComLink does this through proactive outreach, comprehensive case support including befriending and action planning, and galvanising the community to offer customised programmes and services to the families.

Proactive outreach to address families’ needs early

7          Over the last year, notwithstanding constraints resulting from COVID-19 safe management measures, we expanded ComLink from 4 to 11 ComLink towns[3]. Since the pilot of ComLink in 2019, MSF and partners have reached out to over 6,800 families and successfully engaged more than 3,800 families to understand their needs, hopes and aspirations. Arising from the outreach, we connected families with immediate needs to the relevant agencies for support promptly. Based on the data collected and needs identified, we will also convene Focus Group Discussions at each ComLink town to better understand the challenges faced by families. Working closely with community partners, we can then build and create customised programmes and services for ComLink families, which will better address their needs and cater to their aspirations and interests. MSF is on track to complete the outreach for these 11 towns in the coming months, and will roll out ComLink to the 10 remaining ComLink towns by Q2 2022.

Providing comprehensive case support through action planning and journeying with families through befriending

8          Given the day-to-day stressors that they face, many lower-income families may not have the bandwidth to plan and set goals for the future. Under ComLink, these families will not only receive support from Government agencies and community partners, but also have befrienders assigned to journey with and support them over the longer term. The ComLink befrienders will serve as a consistent touchpoint for the families, checking in on them regularly, and working with them to develop action plans to achieve their short and long-term goals.

9          ComLink befrienders will also work closely with the ComLink families and agencies, coordinated backend by the SSOs, to co-develop comprehensive and coordinated action plans. We will progressively scale this integrated model of care to ComLink families, over the next few years to support the families in achieving the 3 ‘S’. At the same time, MSF is also coordinating befriending efforts across agencies who are also supporting the same family, such that over time, families will be able to interact with a dedicated team of befrienders to support them comprehensively instead of many different befrienders from multiple programmes.

Strengthening community networks to organise and deliver customised programme and services

10         Community involvement is integral to the success of ComLink. Over the last year, about 700 volunteers have joined various ComLink efforts including ComLink outreach, befriending and programmes. ComLink volunteers receive training to equip them with the required skills, and those who are keen can be cross-deployed to different areas of ComLink work.

11         We have introduced 74 ComLink programmes and services to date, to strengthen the ecosystem of support for ComLink families. These programmes include enrichment programmes to support the children’s holistic development, sports programmes to engage youth, and support groups for parents. We have engaged over 175 partners and corporates to build awareness of ComLink and deepen partnerships with the community through the creation of ComLink programmes. Over the past year, we have also secured about $2.4 million in monetary donations from organisations such as Tahir Foundation (with the support of Community Chest), and Temasek Trust oscar@sg, and received 31 in-kind sponsorships for items such as laptops, food, gift packs and books in support of our ComLink programmes. By harnessing the strengths and resources of the community, we complement the case support and services provided by government agencies, and collectively contribute to the families’ well-being.

12         We invite interested partners and residents to participate in and support this initiative by contributing funding and donations in kind, as well as volunteering their skills and time. Donors and volunteers may approach the SSOs or visit the MSF website to register their interest.

Strengthening support for ComCare families with school-going children through “bundled schemes”

13         MSF has been streamlining processes, sharing data and setting up protocols across agencies to improve access for ComCare clients to other help schemes. These arrangements simplified the application process for ComCare clients to benefit from other schemes without repeated means testing or the need to submit supporting documents. For MediFund assistance and bursaries for ITE and polytechnic students, eligible ComCare families already do not need to apply for each scheme separately; the approval of ComCare assistance comes with the assurance of MediFund assistance for Singapore Citizens, and where there are full-time students from the family receiving ComCare assistance who are attending ITE and polytechnics, ITE and polytechnics will automatically grant these students the Higher Education Community Bursary after backend verification – without the need for clients to submit application forms separately.

14         We are pushing ahead with further streamlining. By Q2 2022, eligible families[4] with children attending Government or Government-aided schools and MSF-registered Student Care Centres (SCCs) or Special Student Care Centres (SSCCs) whose ComCare Financial Assistance applications are approved will automatically qualify for MOE FAS and MSF’s Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA)[5], without them having to submit separate applications for these schemes. We will also enhance SCFA for these eligible children, such that they will qualify for maximum SCFA subsidies (capped at $290/month for MSF-registered SCCs and $821/month for MSF-registered SSCCs) for a duration of 12 months. These enhancements are estimated to benefit up to 10,000 school-going children each year. Their families would spend less time and effort on submitting applications and be better assured of financial support for their children’s schooling and after-school care needs. The enhancements will also translate to approximately 50% reduction in processing time for clients and savings of about 6,700 manhours for officers per year.

15         We will progressively expand the number of schemes where ComCare applicants do not have to make separate applications, to cover preschool subsidies, digital access, housing and primary healthcare. For instance, we are working towards referring ComCare SMTA clients to the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) backend, without the need for them to separately apply for the latter. Overall, we expect about 30,000 ComCare families to benefit from increased convenience and time savings without having to make separate applications for these “bundled schemes”.

Please refer to Annex B for the list of efforts to strengthen support for lower-income and vulnerable individuals and families.

ServiceSG centres are centres that deliver a range of public services across different agencies, to citizens. These integrated public service centres are currently operating at Our Tampines Hub, Nee Soon Central CC and Kampung Chai Chee CC. More such centres will be set up within our HDB heartlands in the Community Centres (CCs).

Please refer to Annex C for the details of the Community Link Staging Plan.

MOE FAS supports Singapore Citizen (SC) children who study in Government or Government-Aided schools. SCFA is available for SC or Permanent Resident (PR) children (with at least one immediate family member of the child being a SC) who attend student care at MSF-registered SCCs or SSCCs.

If the child has not applied for SCFA before or is not currently enrolled in an MSF-registered SCC or SSCC, an accompanying note will be issued for the family to apply for SCFA at the MSF-registered SCC or SSCC that the child is/will be enrolled in.

Annex A: Frequently Asked Questions

Annex B: Efforts to strengthen support for lower-income and vulnerable individuals/families

Annex C: Community Link Staging Plan

Annex D: Translated Terms [114 kb]



Annex A: Frequently Asked Questions

Enhanced SupportGoWhere (SGW) Portal

1.          Why do SSOs follow up with a phone or video call with ComCare applicants? Is the information provided via the ComCare portal insufficient for assessment?

SSO officers look beyond financial assistance to provide holistic support to ComCare applicants. This is in line with our principle of delivering Comprehensive, Convenient, Coordinated support. Speaking to ComCare applicants enables our officers to better understand the family’s situation and clarify whether additional information is required for a holistic assessment of the family, as some of this information may not be retrievable or captured via the online portal.

2.          Will the enhanced SGW portal be available in all four languages? If not, what happens if an applicant is unable to read or understand English?

The online application for ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) via the enhanced SGW portal will only be available in English. Applicants who require assistance could approach ServiceSG centres[6], where they can be assisted by service ambassadors, or walk in to the nearest SSO to apply for ComCare SMTA in person. Please refer to here for the list of SSOs.

ServiceSG centres are centres that deliver a range of public services across different agencies, to citizens. These integrated public service centres are currently operating at Our Tampines Hub, Nee Soon Central Community Centre and Kampung Chai Chee Community Centre. More such centres will be set up within our HDB heartlands in the Community Centres.

3.          Will Singaporeans be able to apply for the ComCare SMTA 24/7?

Yes, the SMTA online application function will be available 24/7.

4.          What are the documents that Singaporeans need to provide when applying online?

Below are the required documents for the online application and verification purposes:

For Main applicant and all household members 

(i) NRIC/FIN/Birth Certificate
Note: Birth Certificates are applicable for children in the household

- NRIC/FIN of main applicants will not be required as the login will be via Singpass.
- If applicants/household members had provided these identification documents in earlier ComCare applications, they will not be required to be submitted again.

(ii) Bank statements/books/slips

-


After the SSO officer has received the application, applicants will receive a call from the SSO officer within 3 working days. The SSO officer may request additional documents or information, if required.

5.          When will Singaporeans be informed of the outcome of their ComCare SMTA application?

MSF takes about 4 to 6 weeks to process applications upon submission of all supporting documents. Applicant can check the status and outcome of their application on the portal. We will also notify applicants of the outcome through a letter via mail and/or SMS if a mobile number was provided in the online application.

Update on ComLink

1.          How many people have we engaged through the door-to-door surveys? How does MSF intend to sustain outreach efforts in the future?

Since 2019, we have reached out to about 6,800 ComLink families and successfully engaged more than 3,800 ComLink families across the 11 ComLink towns to understand their needs, hopes and aspirations. These findings have helped us customise programmes to understand and meet the needs of the ComLink families. We will continue to tap on existing touchpoints, such as the Family Service Centres (FSCs), SSOs and schools, as well as volunteers, to sustain outreach efforts.

2.          What are the programmes available or planned at ComLink locations?

The current and planned programmes at the 11 ComLink sites, include:

  • Reading and numeracy programmes for young children, conducted by various partners such as National Library Board, ReadAble, Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS) and National Youth Council;
  • Non-academic enrichment programmes for children and youths, including sports activities by SportCares, after-school enrichment classes by social enterprises such as KidsExcel, coding lessons by corporate partners such as Saturday Kids, basic money management workshops by NUS MoneyWhizz, and children activities that encourage free play, sports and crafts sessions at the Tak Takut Kids Club by 3Pumpkins;
  • Health and medical services for adults and seniors - ‘Doctors-On-Wheels’, provided by SATA CommHealth and Woodlands Health Campus;
  • Support and life-skill programmes for parents, conducted by Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Social Service Agencies (SSAs), such as Care Corner Singapore Limited and Young-en Care Centre; and
  • Skills upgrading and job matching services, provided by partners such as Mendaki Sense, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and Fast Jobs – a job search portal under Singapore Press Holdings.


3.          Who can take part in ComLink programmes, and do they need to pay for the programmes? How can residents find out about and sign up for upcoming programmes?

Families with children living in rental housing are prioritised for the ComLink programmes. Fellow residents in these estates with similar needs can also participate if there is capacity. Programmes are free, and residents are encouraged to sign up early.

Residents can find out about the latest programmes through noticeboards placed at common areas (e.g. lift lobbies and Residents’ Networks), as well as through letters sent to residents. More information on how to sign up for these programmes can also be found on these notices. SSOs and partner agencies will also update ComLink families on upcoming ComLink programmes during their regular engagements.

4.          How can interested partners come on board?

We welcome more community and corporate partners to join us in serving families in need. They can reach out to MSF’s SSOs to register their interest and find out more about the local ComLink effort.

Members of the public who are interested to volunteer as ComLink befrienders or assist with ComLink programmes may approach the SSOs or visit the MSF website to register their interest.

5.          Will there be dedicated programme spaces at each ComLink community?

With ComLink expanded to serve more families, we will be tapping on existing community spaces such as Community Centres or FSCs to deliver ComLink programmes wherever possible. This will ensure that ComLink families, who may be residing in different areas within a town, can have convenient access to these programmes. MSF will assess the need to build dedicated programme spaces to serve ComLink families if needed.

6.          What are some of considerations in the staging of ComLink? Why are certain towns chosen to start first?

Since 2021, we have rolled out ComLink at 11 towns, including expanding the four pilot ComLink sites to cover all families with children living in rental housing within the respective towns, before commencing the roll-out to the remaining 10 towns in Q2 2022 (see Annex C for details).

The scale-up of ComLink is being phased to ensure that the SSOs have sufficient time to engage and bring on board the partners in each town, begin the intensive needs assessment exercise, and iron out kinks in the implementation. The towns to be covered in the first phase were chosen based on factors such as (i) geographical spread; (ii) number of families with children living in rental housing (towns with more families with children living in rental housing have been prioritised); and (iii) number of new families moving into rental housing (to ensure that ComLink support is provided as soon as they enter rental housing).

7.          Will there be befrienders for all ComLink families?

Befriending support will be offered to all ComLink families who are not receiving professional social work support (e.g. from social workers under FSCs). This will be offered progressively over the next few years. Families who require professional social work support will continue to be supported by relevant social workers and agencies.

8.          Who can become ComLink befrienders? What training will be provided and where can they sign up if they are keen to volunteer as a ComLink befriender?

MSF selects suitable candidates amongst SSO volunteers who are empathetic, encouraging, and passionate about journeying with lower-income families to join us as ComLink befrienders. Before deployment, MSF will assess the suitability of these candidates, and provide training to equip ComLink befrienders with the relevant skills and knowledge to support our ComLink families. Befrienders can also approach SSOs, should they require further advice or assistance.

Members of the public who are interested to volunteer as ComLink befrienders may approach the SSOs or visit the MSF website to register their interest.

Strengthened support for ComCare clients with school-going children

1.          What are the ComCare scheme bundles supporting school-going children?

We are strengthening support for ComCare families with school-going children. Eligible families whose ComCare Financial Assistance applications are approved will automatically qualify for MOE FAS and MSF’s SCFA by Q2 2022.

Note: Since 2018, eligible ComCare clients have been automatically receiving MediFund assistance and the Higher Education Community Bursary (for full-time ITE and Polytechnic students).

MOE FAS
Families whose ComCare Financial Assistance applications will automatically qualify for MOE FAS for the remaining months of the academic year. This enhancement will start by Q2 2022.

- Note: The child has to be a Singapore Citizen (SC) and a full-time student in a Government or Government-Aided school (e.g. primary and secondary school, Junior College and Centralised Institute).

Assistance period for MOE FAS

Starts one month after the commencement of ComCare assistance.
- Example: If the family’s ComCare assistance starts in June 2022, assistance for their school-going children under MOE FAS will start from July 2022.

For families whose ComCare assistance period cuts across academic years, MOE FAS assistance for their school-going children will be automatically renewed for the following academic year.
- Example: If the family’s ComCare assistance period is from June 2022 to January 2023, they will automatically qualify for MOE FAS from July 2022 till December 2023.

SCFA
Families whose ComCare Financial Assistance applications are approved will qualify for maximum SCFA subsidies for 12 months, regardless of the household’s assessed income level. This enhancement will start by Q2 2022.

- Note: The child has to be a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Permanent Resident (PR), with at least one immediate family member of the child being an SC.

Assistance period for SCFA

- Applicable for 12 months.
- Maximum SCFA subsidies may be extended beyond 12 months for specific families that have graduated from ComCare assistance but continue to require support.

For families whose child is currently enrolled at an MSF-registered SCC or SSCC

When families apply for new or renewed ComCare assistance at SSOs:

- Child is currently receiving SCFA or has received SCFA previously: Qualify for maximum SCFA with no further action required by family. SCFA application will be processed backend once ComCare assistance is approved.

- Child has never received SCFA before: Once ComCare assistance is approved, families will be issued with an accompanying note stating that they qualify for maximum SCFA subsidies. Families may use the note to apply for SCFA at the SCC or SSCC.

For families whose child is currently not enrolled at an MSF-registered SCC or SSCC

When families apply for or renew ComCare at SSOs:

- Once ComCare assistance is approved, families will be issued with an accompanying note stating that they qualify for maximum SCFA subsidies. Families may use the note to apply for SCFA when enrolling at the SCC or SSCC.


2.          What type of assistance will ComCare clients receive under the ComCare scheme bundle for school-going children?

Below are details of the assistance provided under MOE FAS: MOE FAS Assistance

*If the FAS application is not approved in January, the transport subsidy will be pro-rated accordingly from the month after the application is approved to December of the same year.

Below are details of the assistance provided under MSF’s SCFA: MSF SCFA Assistance

3.          Why do ComCare clients still need to apply at the student care centres to benefit from the scheme bundle? Can this step be eliminated completely?

While the bundle qualifies the child for maximum SCFA subsidies, this can only come into effect when the child is enrolled in an eligible centre and there is available information about the centre’s fees/charges and other details. ComCare clients who have yet to enrol their child in an MSF-registered SCC or SSCC, or are applying for SCFA for the first time, can use the accompanying note attached to their ComCare letter to support their SCFA application at the centre. Thereafter, future SCFA applications can be processed automatically.

4.          How does MSF determine which schemes will be included under the scheme bundles?

We look out for complementary schemes that are typically required by lower-income and households in need to determine if they are suitable for scheme bundles.

5.          Is the duration of the assistance for the bundled scheme tied together with the period of ComCare assistance?

No, the assistance duration of other assistance programmes in the bundle scheme is de-synchronised from the duration of the ComCare assistance (e.g. the bundled scheme assistance will not necessarily terminate once ComCare assistance ends). For example, MOE FAS is given for the entire academic year, even if ComCare assistance is only for a few months.

6.          How do the ComCare scheme bundles announced in COS 2022 differ from similar announcements made in previous years? How will the scheme bundles improve convenience for clients?

In previous years, Streamlined Assessment Protocols simplified the application process for ComCare clients to benefit from other schemes without repeated means testing or the need to submit supporting documents. However, for some of these schemes, clients are still required to approach respective agencies to apply for the schemes.

We are making the help-seeking process seamless for more scheme bundles. Eligible ComCare families will automatically receive help from more schemes, without having to apply for each separately. This is similar to the current arrangement for full-time ITE and Polytechnic students in ComCare families so that they can get the Higher Education Community Bursary without the need for separate applications. ITE, polytechnics and MSF match the students’ data to determine which students are ComCare clients, and these students are automatically granted the Higher Education Community Bursary.

The table below shows the improved experience for eligible ComCare clients: Enhanced ComCare Client Experience

7.          Are non-ComCare clients able to tap on these scheme bundles?

The current scheme bundles are specifically designed for ComCare clients. Given that the assessment criteria for ComCare is tighter than most schemes, this means that clients who qualify for ComCare assistance are likely to be eligible for other schemes. Non-ComCare clients may not qualify for the bundled schemes or for the subsidy tiers under ComCare scheme bundles. Therefore, non-ComCare clients should apply for the other schemes based on current procedures.

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Annex B: Efforts to strengthen support for lower-income and vulnerable individuals/families

Building Capabilities and Strengthening Networks  Building capabilities
- As of Jan 2022, MSF has trained around 6,690 public and social service sector officers to offer Comprehensive, Convenient and Coordinated support to date.
  • Around 2,800 frontline officers trained to identify needs holistically and refer families to agencies to ensure those in need receive and timely support.
  • 3,890 case officers trained to manage and coordinate complex cases through the Case Master Action Planning (Case MAP) trainings.

Partnering the community to support those in need
- Built up pool of volunteers: MSF has onboarded over 1,400 volunteers (of which about 700 are ComLink volunteers) who have been deployed for volunteering opportunities at the SSOs. MSF will also continue to strengthen volunteers’ competencies through training to equip them for their respective roles, such as befriending ComLink families.
- Expanded Vulnerable-In-Community (VIC) network: MSF has also expanded the VIC network nationwide to reach out to and befriend vulnerable individuals including tissue sellers, cardboard collectors and rough sleepers. To date, the VIC network has engaged over 200 individuals.
- Improved charity food coordination through the Charity Food Workgroup (CFWG): The CFWG is working to create a food directory to refer clients to food support organisations based on location or dietary requirements, and a food database to improve better matching of individual/family’s food needs with available support.

Strengthening Coordination and Streamlining Work Processes

Strengthening cross-agency coordination
- Sustained the use and training of Case MAP – good practices and protocols which guide agencies in supporting families with complex needs.
- Case MAP e-learning training will be extended to social service and healthcare agencies.

Helping clients overcome barriers to accessing help
- Social Service Systems Office (S3O) and SSOs have thus far supported 250 complex cases that agencies had difficulties resolving on their own and might have remained “stuck”. These complex cases involve interlocking issues such as housing, legal and immigration matters.

Leveraging on Data and Technology to provide more client-centric service delivery

Launch of One Client View in February 2021
- Allows frontline officers obtain a comprehensive view of clients’ circumstances, assistance received and make referrals more easily.
- Onboarded 1,700 users across 17 agencies.

Launched Case Connect in July 2021
- Allows frontline officers to make referrals to other agencies, share assessments and updates, and better coordinate interventions with other agencies easily on a common platform.
- To date, we have onboarded 800 users across 69 Agencies such as FSCs, HDB, SSOs, MOE, People’s Association and WSG.

Worked with Municipal Services Office (MSO) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) to introduce Help Neighbour feature in MSO’s OneService App in June 2021
- Enabled the public to connect persons in need to relevant assistance. As at 31 January 2022, we have received reports of 272 persons in need – 118 seniors in need, 102 rough sleepers, 30 tissue paper sellers and 22 cardboard collectors.

 

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Annex C: Community Link Staging Plan

2H 2021

Expansion of 4 existing ComLink sites into ComLink towns

  1. Jurong West (formerly Boon Lay)
  2. Woodlands (formerly Marsiling)
  3. Bedok (formerly Kembangan Chai-Chee)
  4. Kreta Ayer (formerly Jalan Kukoh)


7 new ComLink towns

  1. Ang Mo Kio
  2. Tampines
  3. Toa Payoh
  4. Bukit Batok
  5. Hougang / Serangoon
  6. Queenstown
  7. Bukit Merah

 

Q2 2022

10 ComLink towns

  1. Yishun
  2. Pasir Ris / Punggol
  3. Sembawang
  4. Sengkang
  5. Jurong East
  6. Clementi
  7. Geylang Serai
  8. Jalan Besar
  9. Choa Chu Kang
  10. Bukit Panjang

 

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